Thursday, March 19, 2009

The perception of “madness”

Let’s take a break from pure political discourses. Let’s take a look at “insanity or madness”. Whenever we think of people who are insane, inevitably the place “Tanjung Rambutan” comes to mind. ‘You are so mad, you should be sent to Tanjung Rambutan’. Mad people are not welcome in society. Some of them are considered dangerous for various reasons – they may harm themselves or others if left unguided.

Many times, I suspect we put away ‘mad people’ in an institution away from public eye maybe because we are embarrassed. I had a friend when I was growing up who was considered ‘mad”. I must have been in my early teens and he might have been in his late 40s when I first knew of him. They used to call him “Pak Sheh” and he was well known to all the shopkeepers along Penang Road. He is always in a grey jacket and sarong with shoes.

The shopkeepers used to buy him food. He never asks for money. He used to help old ladies and old men cross the roads. Whenever he wants to shower, any of the shopkeepers oblige him with their toilet or he showers in the nearby surau (those were the days when we did not have slogans of caring society but there was caringness all around!) He does not disturb anyone. However, kids were told to stay away from him. Of course, I being the curious one used to talk to him whenever he was alone without other adults knowing of it. It was easy because he used to sleep on the walkway of our shop at night on a cardboard.

I never really knew why they considered him mad. I thought he made a lot of sense. Well, he does make statements that adults did not understand and they found him very funny.

I suddenly thought of him yesterday when one of my friends was talking about the lack of domestic security in the country. He was referring to break-ins and such. He was concerned for his properties.

In one the sessions with Pak Sheh on the walkway, I asked him why he does not stay in a house. He said, the whole of Penang is his house. Roughly, this is what he said (in Malay):

“ Pak Sheh is not mad. But people say I am mad. Never mind. It makes them happy. Pak Sheh does not have to be afraid of anything. I am safe anywhere. I get food, I get sleep and I got lot of friends. One day, when I die, I am sure somebody will bury me. It does not matter when I am dead. The important thing is, I get to live and do what I came for.”

It never occurred to me to ask him what “he came for” because I did not really understand that part then. But I remember I learned quite a bit from him.

He also said, “Look at the adults. They have chains and locks for their houses. Even inside they feel unsafe. They are always in a hurry as if they are late. You can never be late when your time is up. SO, who is mad?”.




Stephen Doss said...


do you know that the fellas (Tanjung Rambutan Alumni) are the only ones with certificates to proof that they are NOT MAD.

You and me macam mana yek :)

Jahamy said...


correct,correct, correct. They are certified not mad..we are still suspect....

Which reminds me...just like me..."born" muslim don't have certificate of conversion...:) how?

Stephen Doss said...


Khalwat tuh kalau ditangkap bersama isteri :)